2012 is the year that conservatism begins the process of identifying itself for the 21st century while changing the face of a major Political Party. The Democrats and the left goe into the election confident of an ideology that resembles more of a monarchy in which Obama, Pelosi and Reid play the roles of Kings and Queens and we are mere followers. For the left, the constitution is an antiquated idea to be ignored while the experts of the political class govern. For conservatives and libertarians, it is the constitution front and center, a reminder that government is to serve the people and not rule over them; a crusade to return balance to a nation where the Federal government has broken from its restraint and threatens much of the liberty declared sacred.
Ron Paul represents one aspect of this battle to identify conservatism and many of his army of supporters live in the political underground and hidden from the media, pollsters and most Republican strategists. One example of the invisible portion of Ron Paul’s army is Rachel. Rachel is a single gay woman, a mother of a teen age son and engaged to her significant other with a formal marriage ceremony just over the horizon. A former Democrat, she has moved right past what many would call traditional conservatism and right smack into libertarianism and she is joined by Beverly, a mother of four including two teenagers who declared herself proudly part of Ron Paul’s army. Like Rae (Rachel’s fiancé nickname for her), Beverly was a long term Democrat until recently when she noted,” I was a Democrat until Vice President Joe Biden came to Cedar Rapids with Chet Culver during the 2010 elections and spoke. I was so upset over some of the things that Mr. Biden said that I switched my party from Democrat to Republican. Our officials are spending money because it’s available. This ‘available’ money has ruined thousands of lives.”
What drives both Rae and Beverly to Ron Paul is his emphasis on liberty, in particular personal liberty. For example, Rae and Beverly agree with Paul’s opposition to the war on drugs, as Rae observed, “We need to end the war on drugs, I believe only the drug cartels benefit from this and it’s a waste of money,” a point that Beverly agrees with. Another aspect that Rae discussed was Paul’s own views of social security as she observed, “Social Security… someone making 30,000 a year should get $3000 a month after 40 years of work, they probably only get what? $1000 of that… Ron wants to give people the option to opt out.” Like many voters in their mid-30, Rae realizes that the fiction that is social security is not only bankrupt but when she finally retires; she will see nothing in return for her “contribution.”
The one aspect that Rae and Beverly agree along with another Paul supporter Karl is Paul’s skepticism on the Federal Reserve. For them, it is not just about auditing the Federal reserve, which
they all agree on but also a more radical review on the role of the Federal reserve and if it is even needed. Ron Paul single-handedly has managed to place front and center, the relation of the
Federal Reserve’s role in the economy; including its role in the present recessionary times we live in. In the last century, Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan rose from the Midwest to challenge William McKinley while declaring that man should not be crucified upon a cross of gold as he rebelled against the Gold Standard of his day. Ron Paul views returning to the Gold Standard as a means to restoring economic freedom and setting up an independent standard outside of the government. In Paul’s view, the Federal Reserve and other central banking systems have burned our future economic prosperity upon a fiat currency and want a return to an earlier standard that declares that our dollar should be as solid as the gold that backs it and not give the politicians the freedom to debase the currency as they expand their own power.
Ron Paul’s crusade has struck a chord with his supporters that go beyond mere political Party as all three of these Paul Supporters are members of a cause, not a Party. All three indicated if Paul is not nominated, they would most likely stay home (even though Republican Gary Johnson is now pursuing the libertarian party nominee and it will be interesting how many Paul supporters move to the Libertarian side.)
While Rae and Beverly are former Democrats, Karl is an independent and runs a company that includes managing an African-American Radio station and like the others, his first order of business is liberty and like the others, he supports the non-interventionist foreign policy of Ron Paul. For all three, they want to see American troops return home but one should not confuse Ron Paul and the libertarian vision of foreign affairs as totally isolationist. In the 1920, the Republican isolationists were not just opposed to foreign adventures overseas but they also supported protectionist measures to aid American manufacturers at home and keep foreign goods out. Libertarians are free traders, so they believe in international trade to complement their support for free market policies at home and their non-interventionist foreign policy is that overseas adventurism leads to bigger government at home. Rae observed that free trade is part of an overall agenda that reduces the power of the federal government at home including the elimination of federal bureaucracy. Beverley added, “Ron Paul is right about FEMA, HUD, the Department of Education, the Federal Reserve and national security,” as she joined Paul call into a major retrenchment of the Federal Government.
There is a core that all three of these Paul supporters hold and that the biggest social issue facing America is not abortion or other social issues but the size of government itself. As Rae noted, “Things like pro-life, religion, equal rights, and the environment don’t make a difference if you don’t have your freedom.” For a Ron Paul supporter, the overreaching social issues is to stop an ever increasing government that is strangling our basic liberties from economic freedom, political freedom and even religious freedom. Ron Paul like other conservatives and libertarians in this election are seeking a new social contract that calls for government to return to a more humble role in our life. If the Left seeks a social compact that details government responsibility to take care of Americans, the Paul social compact details how the government needs to retreat from its paternal role to a role where government protects our rights and give us the opportunity to succeed whereas the people accept responsibility for their lives. A friend of mine observed that this election deals with voters who wants liberty but who are not willing to accept the risks or
responsibility and those voters who are willing to not just demand liberty but to take the risks and responsibility to maintain it. The Obama social compact relieves voters of their responsibility to maintain liberty but once the government removes the risk and responsibility associated with Liberty, it is not long before Liberty itself is extinguished.
Ron Paul supporters view their battle as a battle for renewal of liberty, which brings us to the conservative challenge of the 21st century. There is a consensus among conservatives beginning with Tea Party members, old fashion Reagan Republicans (which I count myself as one), libertarians and new supporters of liberty like Karl, Beverly and Rae; government is no longer the protector of our liberty but is slowly strangling our freedom. There is a major debate on how American conservatism will approach this issues as there are divides on abortion, foreign affairs with most conservatives not sold on Ron Paul’s non-interventionist foreign policy, same-sex marriage, and drug legalization. The one area that does unite libertarians and conservatives is the need to restrain and reduce the size of government in the economic realm and the political realm. Paul’s attack on the Federal Reserve has it a nerve and about every major candidate has joined Paul in supporting auditing the Fed and no longer will the Federal Reserve be treated with reverence by a Republican administration but instead with a wary eye. All of this is due to Ron Paul.
The real challenge for the conservative movement is how they tie an ever growing movement together, a movement in agreement on the need for smaller government and return to a belief
of the Constitution but a movement still looking for the specific plan to put all together. Ron Paul is but one leader of a movement still looking not just to identify itself but struggling to unify
itself to oppose the leviathan government threatening to bankrupt America and strangle its liberty.